Surrogacy is an extra reproductive technology, whereby a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for another person or persons, who will become the newborn child's parent(s) after birth. The issue that still arouses a lot of controversies and debates has become the topic of conversation with psychoanalyst, member of the Yerevan subsidiary of the New Lacanian School, head of the social and psychological service at Quantum college Elena Barteneva.
According to the Armenian legislation, a woman who wants to become a surrogate mother should be younger than 35 years old and have at least one child born through vaginal delivery. 10-year-old children are extremely sensitive. Can such a pregnancy be harmful for the kid of a mother, who is planning to be a surrogate?
I think everything depends on how the situation is presented to the child. This is the decision to be taken by the mother. It is one thing to say that she is going to sell the baby but an entirely different thing if she says: “You know, these people want to have a baby so much and to love it like I love you. But they can’t manage by themselves, so I decided to help them.”
So, a forethought approach without concealing the truth is the best?
It depends on the child’s age but the approach should be forethought in any case. If the child is up to three years old, the mother’s pregnancy can go unnoticed. But if the child is big enough to understand what’s going on, the mother should explain.
There was a case when a surrogate just left her child with the grandma during the last months of the pregnancy but we don’t know whether the kid received any explanation. Do you think that mother’s disappearance can do more harm to the child than the truth that was concealed?
I do believe that an explanation is needed, although I have no right to tell a mother how to behave in this situation. Being too honest can sometimes be harmful, just as concealing the truth. The mother should find the golden mean. There are cases when a surrogate mother tells her own child that she is expecting a baby and then says that the infant was born dead. It’s the worst scenario that can ever be imagined, as the child will start thinking about death.
As to mother’s disappearance, there can be a situation when the mother is sick and should be isolated, for example. My general approach is that any situation can be explained in words and concepts comprehendible for the child not to spark speculations that can be detrimental to the kid.
Children have a habit of blaming themselves…
If the mother disappears, the child first thinks: “I am bad and mom doesn’t want to see me.” That’s why it’s necessary for the mom to explain that she loves her baby very much but she must go away for a while to earn some money or to check into a hospital.
When and how should the child learn that he/she was born by a surrogate mother?
If the parents should get their infant and forget how it was born, things would be much easier. However, it’s not so. If a mother, who turned to a surrogate, hears her child asking about coming-into-being, she feels embarrassed: “Why are you asking? Did anyone tell you?” Actually, everything is quite natural. The child asks because all children do. But the question is not about physiology and there is no need to tell about the process of conception, as it will cause shock and bewilderment. All kids at the age of 3 just want to be sure that they are wanted and loved. Some western authors say: tell you child that dad gave mom a bone and she grew up a baby out of it.
Thus, the story about the stork is worth nothing..?
If you tell your children about the stork, they will sooner or later learn that it’s not so. This will undermine mother’s authority as a person who can be trusted. The kids should know that father was a participant: he gave a bone to give you a life. In case with children carried by a surrogate, it’s very important to say that they were wanted so much that the parents had to ask ‘an auntie’ to help. As to the age, when the truth can be told, it depends. Maybe in adolescence, if there is a danger of learning about it from anyone else at an inopportune moment.
A surrogate mother comprehends that the baby she carries is not hers genetically. Nevertheless, can the changes inside her body trigger adverse effects?
Of course, maternal instinct is extremely powerful. We know cases when the surrogate refused to give the baby away. So a childless couple should take it into account and contract a psychologist for the period of pregnancy if there is a possibility.
The law says that the physical and mental health of a potential surrogate should be thoroughly checked. Is it really possible to know for sure that the woman will be resilient during the pregnancy?
A psychiatric examination can reveal diseases like psychosis or schizophrenia. But no woman is secured from emotional stress. There should be someone near to tell that this baby is not hers and it’s her gift to a couple she decided to help. However, there are some difficulties here. Commonly, the couples who hire a surrogate, don’t wish to have close contact. They just want the woman to fulfill her part of the agreement and disappear forever.
If a surrogate is used as an incubator, can it affect her self-esteem? Can she think that he body was just used, despite the remuneration she got?
Everything depends on the attitude of mind. If she doesn’t stop telling herself that she was just bought and used, it will first of all damage her own mental health. It’s much better to realize that she stretches a helping hand, gives a shelter to other people’s child. You make a miracle happen. Even if she gets a certain amount for that, the baby is not an item of goods. She is paid for a period of her life, her time and effort.
What would you say about the position of the church about the issue?
It should be understood. From the point of view of passionate believers, if God doesn’t give you a child, you should accept it, as it means you should do something else, for example adopt a child. For the others, the state of affairs is different: if we want to have a child, we will have one. There is a kind of conviction that woman is a household machine and incubator. With roots in the animal world, our conscience is struggling out of it. Maybe it’s the highest spirit manifestation to love other people’s child like your own.